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Portugese Patterns

portuguese tiles

ceramic tile

Portugal has been one of those few European countries to which for some reason both my husband and myself never had been to. We had often been very close by, in Spain, we had seen pictures, heard recounts and read articles though. According to them, every pore and place of this history laden little country sounded fantastic, and a few weeks back we finally decided to go see for ourselves and travel to Portugal.

What a great decision this was! Even though our expectations were high, we did not get disappointed in any way. The cities are charmful and pictuesque, full of art and beauty stories, the villages and landscapes ever changing, rural and genuine. There’s colors and gardens and architectural styles, orchards and green spaces and traditions. The people act calm, friendly and helpful towards strangers, and seem like a happy and serene bunch between themselves.

pulpo

vineyards in the duoro

And the food, oh the glorious food, is an entire story on its own. Portugese food is down to earth and does, what food first and foremost used to be and (at least there, how refreshing to witness) still is intended to do: It nourishes. Both the body and the soul, and abundantly so. There is little Froufrou in Portugese food, and much honesty. Animals and plants are used in their entiety. So one will get served pig ears instead of just the loin, turnip greens instead of just turnip, or tiny, whole fishes, eyes, fins and all. Continue reading “Portugese Patterns” »

(Homage to Japan, # 1) The Ten Commandments

another world

“By the time you read this, I will be across the big pond.” This is how my very last post on this blog started, many months ago.

So by the time you are reading this, I have just arrived back home, from yet another big trip  across another big pond, and in the opposite direction than that time before. I spent the past two weeks in Japan, a place I first had visited and fallen in love with 25 years ago. This recent trip showed up on my horizon fast, furious and completely unexpected, and of course I was not just beyond excited but mighty curious about how things would be different now, or how not. (Just a hint: They are even better now than what I remembered them from back then. Seriously. Japan is stunningly clean, has beauty and art everywhere, is easily and totally safely accessible, and full of friendly folks. About the food, that glorious food, I will talk – many times on this blog – later.)

soba lunch

This post is the beginning of “Homage to Japan”, a series on Japan and its food, traditions and specialties. The articles will be served in tiny portions or multiple courses, as a one-pot-affair or an elaborate, staged story. Just like the Japanese cuisine shows up on the table, basically, depending on where and what you chose to eat that day. I will weave in other, non Nippon posts, now that I am happily back to blogging again, but please be prepared for some steady and pleasant rains of recounts from the “Land of the Rising Sun”.

As a starter, today, i am presenting you “The Ten Commandments”. This is a simple but functional list of restaurant and food related habits, tips and rules I observed and learned by eating, well… lots of foods in lots of different places (to say the least). Look at it as a pocket sized, basic but practical guide to make most of eating out in tasty Japan. Itadakimas! (Bon appétit!)

seafood bowl Continue reading “(Homage to Japan, # 1) The Ten Commandments” »

Crazy Foods

liquid, flavored salts

Maybe I should have chosen a title like “The Anatomy of Foods from A – Z” for this post. Or “What today’s Foods tell us about the Foods of the Future”. Both of these lines might have been more informative and accurate. But they both also sounded really, really boring to me. That’s why I stuck with my initial idea, “Crazy Foods”.

Crazy is not just crazy, I like to point out. There’s good crazy and bad crazy. Amazing crazy, wild crazy, surprising crazy, scary crazy and even crazy crazy. Projected onto food, crazy can mean sickening as well as healing or health supporting. Easy as well as complicated, natural as well as artificial, wholesome as well as invading. Crazy suggests progression and evolution, crazy foods are more debatable, less normal and more interesting than just foods.

beautiful packaging for cookies

Crazy is fascinating, and so was the totally overwhelming array of foods I saw during my recent days at SIAL in Paris. The “Salon International d’Alimentation” is a bi yearly food show that celebrated its 50est anniversary this year. 12’500 exhibitors from 100 different countries showed their countless products to somewhat around 300 000 visitors from 200 countries. – If you imagine a zoo, now, you perfectly got the concept (and will understand the choice of my title): A Food Show of this extent indeed is a zoo, although one of delectable nature. And, of course, highly interesting for everybody interested in food, nutrition and hedonism.

So let me share with you a bunch of ideas, products, packagings, trends, novelties and renaissances I encountered while walking the sacred halls of food in Paris. I hope you enjoy. And go crazy for food, once again! Continue reading “Crazy Foods” »

Bonjour Paris!

Drawing Eiffel Tower, Paris, at night

So I woke up in Paris this morning.

It didn’t come as a surprise, of course, the trip was planned. And yet it did feel special. – I have visited this city numerous times in the past, both for business and leisure. But never during the last decade. So I am curious to discover, during the upcoming days, what has changed, and what not.

My memories and images, expectations and hopes are many. Naturally, most are related to food. When I hear Paris, I think Brasseries and Bistros, Baguettes and Boudin and Blanquette de Veau. I see tiny Epiceries, lively market stalls and expert shoppers. People drinking Café or Pastis or Limonade on the terraces of the different restaurants. Sirop de Menthe. Un verre (a glass of wine) or une pression (a beer on tap). I see Steak Tartare or Steak Frites, all the beautiful Pâtisseries and Fromageries. Oh, speaking of cheese: I also do see – and almost taste by just thinking of it – the classic Chèvre Chaud: A big mixed green salad dressed in warm bacon vinaigrette and topped with a thick, warm slice of goat cheese on toast.

My youngest one, when I talked about Paris with him, had only one, yet a very clear vision: The Eiffel Tower at night, with the stars shining bright and the moon smiling. And fine music in the air, because “the spirit of somebody who created something great always stays around”. Pas mal, non?

So don’t be disappointed not to find recipes or pictures from my own kitchen during the next week or so. Yet expect menu descriptions, photographs of places, plates and people, updates on novelties or funnies or trends. Just about anything that makes (edible) Paris Paris.

Seafood Restaurant in Paris

 

 

Carpe Diem #6 – On a (Black) Mission

Fresh figs

When nature gives you abundance, take it. Use the product – that for a limited time is seemingly everywhere -, enjoy it, mix it up, play with it. And just before you get tired, preserve it. – I did this with lemons, tomatoes, cucumbers, strawberries, mangoes, beans, peppers, peaches and several herbs so far this year. And now with Black Mission Figs.

This small, dark and very versatile variety is my personal favorite one, and recently it came in bounty and striking beauty. We ate the fruit straight out of the crate, cut in half and topped with a dollop of fresh goat cheese, or with a sliver of a good blue cheese. We added it to leafy salads. We put a generous amount of goat cheese between two halfs of a fig, wrapped the whole thing with some thinly sliced jamón (or Italian prosciutto, for those who prefer) and let it get crisp under the broiler. We smuggled slices of figs onto pizzas, hidden under speck and arugula (an adaption of a flat bread we once ate at one of Todd English’s restaurants). We pounded pork tenderloin as flat as possible, smeared enough St.Agour – an über creamy blue cheese from southern France – on it and added quarters of little Black Missions. We rolled the beast up, using toothpicks to keep its shape intact, while it was first browned in the pan and then finished in the oven. We did not prepare but talk about the possibility of serving pork chops accompanied by a rich, thick Aceto Balsamico & fig sauce. We also did not bake the fig tart we had made last year.

fresh figs and blue cheese

But we did realize that it was time to move on to the preserving stage. And we knew exactly how we would turn our little friends into immortal, eternally tasty figs: By soaking them, very simply, in brandy. We had been gifted, two or three years ago, with a few jars of such drunken figs by a friend. We ate them with ice cream, with Crème Pâtissière and in delicate muffins (and, one here and there, just off the spoon). My favorite application though was in cheese: We cut a Buffalo Camembert in half horizontally (works best with when done with unscented floss), put the brandied fig slices on the bottom part, and put the top back on again. We let the cheese rest in the fridge overnight, in order to let the flavors mingle. One can do this with any kind of Brie (especially triple cream one), a regular cow Camembert or a fresh goat cheese. Any soft cheese, really. The experience was heavenly, and it could easily replace a sweet dessert.

cheese is filled with brandied figs

Preparing brandied figs is simple and quick: All one needs are cleaned, fresh figs*, a good quality brandy and Mason jars. If you want to preserve the figs whole, poke them with a fork all around. In case you prefer smaller pieces, slice the fruits. Fill a Mason jar with the fruits until about 2 inches from the top. Pack the figs tight, but don’t squish them. Pour the brandy in the jars so that all fruits are completely covered. Close the jar and turn upside down in order to get rid of any air pockets. Make sure the fruits still are completely covered. Let stand in the dark 4-6 weeks before enjoying.

(*Dry figs can be used if desired. They will result in a much sweeter flavor and more dense texture, especially around the edges.)

jars of figs in brandy